Just Pie

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Just pie.  Jest pie.  Jess pie?  Chess pie?!

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The origins of the name of the (unquestionably Southern) chess pie are shrouded in mystery.

Some believe that it’s called chess pie owing to a transformation/translation of “Just Pie” by Southerners’ drawls.
“Just Pie” comes from the pie’s similarity to pecan pie, minus the pecans.
The filling is gooey, sweet, and dense, but free of distracting additions.
It’s really just pie.

Alternately, some think that the name is derived from the fact that this pie saves very well– there is no fruit to mould, or uncooked dairy or eggs to go rotten– so it could be saved for a very long time in a pie chest.
A pie chest is a piece of furniture used to store pies and other food and keep them safe from vermin (and greedy children!).
Pie in chest= chest pie = chess pie.

I guess we’ll never know the true beginnings of the name, but honestly, who cares?! It’s pie.
It’s goooood pie.

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There is something so nostalgic and sweet about Southern desserts.
I thought I’d share a few recent ones from other blogs to get you inspired.
I know I’m crazy inspired and impressed by all these other talented bloggers.

Joy’s Bourbon Pecan Pie with Dark Chocolate blew my socks right off.
It reminds me of my pie that I deemed “the best ever.”
(Which, for the record, is still a stance that I am adamant about.  Go make it.  NOW.)

Beth’s amazing Beet and Goat Cheese Red Velvet cake for Valentine’s day is, without question, the most beautiful bundt/tube cake I have ever laid eyes on/drooled over.
I am continually awed by Beth.
She and her photographs make me want to pack up, move to Tennessee, and start wearing raw denim and drying herbs.
A true marvel of talent, this lady.  Honest and truly.

Speaking of red velvet, did you see this article?
It caught my attention in the Dining section of the NYT and hooked me.
It’s always intriguing to know the origins of your food (chess pie, I’m lookin’ atchu.)

Less on the sweet side, but just as delicious and homey: Tim’s dense Cornbread from Josey Baker Bread is being bookmarked for next Thanksgiving.
And by next Thanksgiving, I mean next week.
Or whenever I can get my grubby paws on some kamut flour.

Laura’s Lattice Top Strawberry Pie… No. Words.
Those photos! Simply breathtaking.  This is by far the most beautiful post I’ve seen in a long time.
I’m so glad she’s back from her short reprieve! Fabulous, fabulous work.

And how about Cindy’s Triple Chocolate Buttermilk Bread?!
Anything with buttermilk immediately connotes comfort cooking (read: Southern cooking) to me.
Buttermilk + butter + chocolate + chocolate + chocolate= comfort.  It’s a tried and true combo.
So dark and dreamy.

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This chess pie starts out with a perfect, flaky flaky all-butter crust.
I like to make my pie crusts by hand, smashing each little frozen butter cube into a sheet, rubbing the flour and sugar between my palms, getting a feel for the dough and all.
It’s folded a few times, rolled out thin, crimped and docked and weighted down, baked for a few minutes just until golden, then filled to the brim with custard.

The coconut custard (chess) filling is based on cream of coconut– you know, the thick, sugary glop they put in piña coladas?
I accidentally purchased some (ah, the perils of breezing over labels) and discovered that it is akin to sweetened condensed milk: thick, creamy, sweet.
I had a few tablespoons of desiccated coconut left in my pantry, and a cup or so of buttermilk.

Thus, this too-sweet cream of coconut mistake was elevated with brown sugar, cornmeal, buttermilk, coconut shreds, butter and coconut oil, and plenty of eggs.

The resultant pie is creamy and sweet, with the perfect amount of egginess and coconut flavor.
The smooth custard is a good foil for the buttery crust, and when topped with powdered sugar and extra toasted coconut, it’s a real treat.  You don’t need much else.
I suppose you could add a dollop of whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and no one would object.
But this pie is a-ok with being eaten on its own.

Just pie is just fine.

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Also, pie, previously:
(Pie highlights? Pie-lights?)

This kickass-crazy-mumba-wumba-hubba-hubba-gimme-more-still-the-best-pie-I’ve-ever-made Pumpkin Spice Brown Butter Chocolate Pecan Pie.
MAKE THIS PIE.  It is all the good things, mushed into one.

This lime and honey apple pie with the cutest little crust decorations!

This arguably perfect but prissy peach pie, adapted from the arguably perfect but prissy Cook’s Illustrated.
SUMMER.  I’M COMING.

This healthy, homemade coconut-key lime pie which I almost lost a finger for.
The things we do for pie.

And there are others too, but they are deep in the archives and I don’t want to scare you off with bad photography.

Expect more pie this summer.  I am declaring this summer the summer of pie.
(…and ice cream, and tarts, and donuts, and pastry, and semifreddo, and cake…)

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Coconut Buttermilk Chess Pie

filling heavily adapted from Food & Wine
makes 1 9-inch pie

ingredients:
for the crust:
140 grams (10 tablespoons) butter, diced and very cold
210 grams (1 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon) flour
1 spoonful (approximately 1 tablespoon) sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
55 grams (3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) ice water, or as needed

for the filling:
120 grams (1/2 cup) cream of coconut
100 grams (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
100 grams (1/2 cup) brown sugar
heaping 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
30 grams (2 tablespoons) coconut oil
85 grams (6 tablespoons) butter
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon cornmeal
scant cup (approximately 225 mL, or 7/8 cup) buttermilk, well-shaken

directions:
Make the crust: whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl.
Dump all of the butter chunks into the flour mixture and toss to coat.
Gently smash and rub the butter into the flour until all chunks are either flattened or the consistency of cornmeal; you want a variety of shapes, the largest being somewhere near pea sized.
Pour in the water and gently stir until dough comes together; add up to another tablespoon of water if need be.
Form the dough into a small rectangle and fold into rough thirds.
Pat the dough into another rough rectangle and fold into thirds again.
Repeat, patting into a rectangle and folding, then pat the dough into a disk.
Wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days.
Remove dough from fridge and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness; place into 9-inch pie pan and fold the excess edges over and crimp as desired.
Dock all over with a fork and line with aluminum foil.
Freeze for at least an hour and up to 10 days very well wrapped in foil and plastic wrap.
Preheat oven to 350.
Fill foil-lined pie shell with pie weights or dried beans.
Bake for 25 minutes, until lightly golden and set, then remove pie weights, dock in a few more places, and bake for 15 more minutes, until golden.
Meanwhile, make filling: whisk cream of coconut, sugars, salt, eggs, and egg yolks together very well.
Melt the butter and coconut oil together and quickly whisk into egg mixture.
Whisk coconut and cornmeal into the mix, then whisk in the buttermilk.
Pour filling into hot crust and place back in oven.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, until center only slightly jiggles when shaken.
Allow to cool, then freeze for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.
Allow to come back to room temperature before serving; dust with powdered sugar and serve with toasted unsweetened coconut, if desired.

Corny

This is an end-of-summer hurrah.
Here’s the sad part: I don’t really feel like writing this post right now.
And I didn’t feel like writing it yesterday
 
or the day before.
Today was Labor Day; I should be gushing about how wonderful summer was and how much I’m looking forward to the fall (my favorite season, duh. Fall baby.)
but
but but
I’m not ready.  I’m so completely and utterly not ready for fall to come sweeping through on a breeze as sharp and cold as the edge of a knife.
Two weeks ago, I was beyond ready.  I could barely wait.
I was on the edge of my seat, excited for cool weather and college (?!) and even the infinite and damned pumpkin recipes.
So, as I write this post, this technically last summer post, why am I so apprehensive and even anxious?
Lord only knows.  
Something inside me has switched and is now tugging me backwards through time, rewinding through the heat and the rain and the thick humidity, rather than pulling me forwards into the chill.
As the time of my departure looms large, I find myself clinging to my friends who live here in town, clinging to my town itself.
Who knew it would be so hard to say goodbye to your safe haven, your happy place, your home?
(Other than everyone…)
See, and here is exactly why I didn’t want to write this post.
Now, I am in tears.
And I don’t want to tell you about this awesome ice cream.
I just want to sit and cry and listen to my sad music playlist and whine and reminisce.
I want a hot cup of tea and a pair of comforting arms to snuggle into.
I. Am. Not. Ready.
Hell, I don’t even want to be ready.
*sigh*
But, I have a job to do here on this sweet-filled blog. So:
This ice cream is awesome.  
This is the second time I’ve made it, which is very rare.
It’s a caramel corn ice cream, loaded with goodies.
 
A creamy custard base is steeped with sweet corn cobs and kernels, fortified with a million egg yolks, and churned until thick and soft.
It’s layered with a soft, smooth caramel laced with whiskey, and crumbled corn cookies, which are summer and sun in a single buttery bite, and which come from the great Christina Tosi.
If you wanna get real naughty, you take a big scoop of this ice cream and sandwich it between two leftover corn cookies.
And then you eat it and think about summer.
Because, I’m telling you, there’s no way you can eat this ice cream
 
and not think
about summer.
Caramel Corn Ice Cream
 
for the corn custard:
ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
2 ears of corn, shucked and kernels taken off, cobs reserved
9 egg yolks
7 tablespoons sugar
directions:
Place heavy cream and milk in a deep pot with the kernels and cobs of the corn.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  
Allow to simmer for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let cool for at least 45 minutes.
Strain the milk mixture, discard the steeped corn. (Scrape the sides of the cobs to make sure you get all the milk out.)
Whisking vigorously, or blending with an immersion blender, add in the egg yolks and sugar.
Return to the pot and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat and blend, in a regular blender canister or with an immersion blender.
Allow to cool completely (overnight in a fridge is ideal).
 
for the whiskey caramel:
ingredients:
3/4 cup sugar
big pinch kosher salt
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon whiskey
directions:
Place the sugar, salt, and corn syrup in a heavy bottomed and deep pan.
Heat over medium heat until sugar caramelizes and turns deep amber, about 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk the heavy cream and whiskey together.
Once the caramel reaches a suitable color, remove from heat and immediately pour in cream/whiskey mixture, whisking constantly.
Mixture will steam, foam, and erupt; be careful and wear an oven mitt.
If the mixture seizes, simply return it to a low heat and continue to whisk until the caramel dissolves and becomes smooth and grit-free.
Allow to cool completely.
 
to assemble:
1 batch corn custard, recipe above
1 batch whiskey caramel, recipe above, warmed for 20 seconds in a microwave or until pourable but not very hot

corn cookies, chopped roughly
directions:
Churn custard according to your ice cream maker’s directions.
Once churned, layer 1/3 of the ice cream into a loaf pan or other freezer-safe container.
Sprinkle 1/2 of the chopped corn cookies onto the ice cream, then drizzle the caramel over.
Layer in the same manner once more.
Finally, top everything off with the final third of the ice cream, then place in a freezer to set for at least 2 hours before using.
You may need to let the ice cream thaw slightly before scooping to serve.

Zaftig

 Zaftig blueberries, people.  Get your minds out of the gutter.
 
I think zaftig is the perfect adjective to describe blueberries, especially those which have been blanketed in delicious crumbles and baked until just about ready to burst.
Pleasantly plump.
Outrageously juicy.
This is a vegan, gluten-free, refined-sugar-free, white-tee-staining, antioxidant-bursting, blueberry crisp.
(Well, vegan until I added a dollop of cold and creamy Greek yogurt.  Sue me.)

This crisp is sweet enough, even without any refined sugar, to serve with unsweetened plain Greek yogurt.
Forget the crisps and crumbles served with ice cream.  
 
This one is healthy enough to eat for breakfast, 
satisfying enough to eat for lunch (ahem), 
moreish enough to eat for a snack during a movie, and 
tempting enough to still call you back for an evening sweet.
 
It’s good.  Real good.
The only sweetener in this crumble is maple syrup, a few good glugs of it.
I was just in Vermont/New Hampshire and bought some maple syrup.  I promptly came home and put it to good use in this crisp.  
JK I used my already opened quart of syrup that was in the fridge.  Let’s just say it was inspired by my trip.
 
(Note: I still haven’t found/bought/even tried any Grade B… Who knows where I can get my sticky, grubby paws on some?)
While in New Hampshire/Vermont, I went on a long hike in the pouring rain.
Pouring as in so wet that you throw out your socks after the hike.
Pouring as in so wet that your baseball hat had its own rain cloud directed straight in between your eyes.
Pouring as in so wet that everything in your waterproof backpack is soaked.
I wrapped my camera up in two plastic bags and braved the cold, bone-soaking rain.
I loved it!  I love the rain; I figure, once you’re wet, you’re wet.
My camera… not so much.  Although the body didn’t get wet at all, there were a lot of raindrops that I ended up having to edit out of my photos.  Some were too impossible for even the clone tool to fix.  Sigh.
 
(I was right along the Connecticut River, and was in both states multiple times.  I don’t know whether to say VT or NH.  Both seem misleading.  I’ll go with NHVT.  Nahv-t.  Then I’ll sound really intelligent.)
 
The photos you see here (photovomit, sorry!) were taken in the Quechee State Park, which has a breathtaking gorge.
Unfortunately, later in the day, just as I was driving out of Vermont, the sun came out and the lighting was perfect, unlike earlier, when it was raining buckets.
That’s life for you.
The park is gorgeous- I found a large swath of dead forest, which seems to have been burned out.
It was hauntingly beautiful in all the mist.
I also found a lot of discarded garbage from disrespectful campers.
Seriously?!  Take out what you bring in.
I was immensely saddened by all the rubbish lying about.
How could such a pristine place be downgraded like this?
Pick up after yourself.  Nature doesn’t appreciate slobs.
Dietary-Restriction-Friendly Blueberry Crisp
ingredients:
2+ pounds (900 grams) fresh blueberries, picked over (enough to fill/heap up in your baking dish)
drizzle of maple syrup (depends how sweet your berries are)
100 grams hazelnut flour
100 grams oats (make sure they’re certified gluten-free if you intend on serving this to gluten-free guests/friends)
80 grams cornmeal
120 grams maple syrup
80 grams coconut oil
pinch kosher salt
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the blueberries in a 10×6 inch pan.
Drizzle maple syrup over them, if desired (I used 2 tablespoons or so).
Stir the hazelnut flour, oat, cornmeal, and salt together.
Add the maple syrup and coconut oil and stir until combined.
Sprinkle the crisp topping over the berries.
Bake for 25 minutes, until the top begins to brown deeply.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 more minutes.
Allow to cool slightly.
Serve with plain Greek yogurt.

Ad Hoc

I find myself opening a lot of drafts, trying to figure out what to write, and a lot of times, I just don’t know.  No one told me that putting words down and sending them into the shadowy interspace would be so gosh darn hard sometimes.  
 
 
Yet I love it.  I love challenging myself to be creative, or funny, or sarcastic, or whatever, but to be honest, I’m not funny or creative or sarcastic all the time.
 
In fact, I hardly ever am.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, I am whiny not.
The only solution is to wing it.
 
Baking new things and combining new flavors is not my problem; I have an entire document on my phone of wacky flavor combinations that I’m dying to try out (See the cornmeal-fig-pistachio-brown butter combo at the bottom of this post for proof).  
 
 
My issue is that I don’t always know what to say about the food I make, without being super repetitive and annoying.  
 
 
I don’t always have witty things to say.  Really.  I just have to pretend I do.
 
 
So. Um.
These were delicious.  You should make them.  
Boom. Done.
 
And P.S.?  The French word for pistachio is inexplicably beautiful to me.  Pistache.
 


Fig, Pistachio, and Cornmeal Brown Butter Blondies
adapted from smittenkitchen’s infinitely adaptable blondies
ingredients:
1 stick butter, browned
1 loose cup light brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
big pinch kosher salt
3 tablespoons coarse polenta
1/4 cup fine cornmeal
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon white whole wheat flour (can use all-purpose)
1 cup chopped dried figs
1 cup toasted chopped pistachios
directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8×8 pan.  Stir brown butter and brown sugar together, then stir in egg and vanilla and salt.  Add in the cornmeals and flour, and stir until combined.  Add in the figs and pistachios.  Spread into pan and bake until golden and slightly firm to the touch, 30-35 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly, slice, and remove from pan.  Allow to cool completely, then dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.